INCHEON, South Korea -- General Motors has doubled the size of its South Korean design center to take on a host of new tasks, from full-scale modeling to 3-D printing, as the carmaker aims to fortify its global hub for small-car development, design and manufacturing.
“Trust me, they will be very busy. That’s both production design and advanced design,” Ed Welburn, GM vice president for global design, said after an opening ceremony today. “The new facility will allow them to take on far more advanced design work.”
The studio sits on the grounds of the company’s Bupyeong assembly plant and engineering center in Incheon, just outside Seoul. GM Korea Co. spent $40 million on the upgrade.
The investment is part of a $7.3 billion GM expansion plan in South Korea over the next four years.
The Korea design center is now GM’s third-biggest styling studio, after centers in the United States and Brazil. GM wants to inject more international flair into its Korean unit’s designs.
Among its new capabilities and equipment:
A bigger virtual reality studio that allows for simultaneous real-time design reviews with GM’s 10 global design centers.
A dramatic increase in studio space and clay modeling mills.
A new outdoor viewing patio with three vehicle turntables.
Capability for finished interior and exterior modeling.
Facilities for full sewing and seat trimming.
GM Korea has led design of such cars as the Chevrolet Sonic, Spark and Cruze, as well as the Trax and Captiva crossovers. It is also an engineering hub for products such as electric vehicles. On its to-do list: GM’s next-generation EV.
The expansion comes at a time of flux for the carmaker’s Korea operations, whose four assembly plants churn out roughly 40 percent of all Chevrolets sold worldwide.
GM’s decision to pull the Chevrolet brand from Europe will erase sales of up to 150,000 units largely sourced from Korean plants. But the company is racing to offset the losses by seeking new export markets and investing to improve Korean productivity.
The design center has a staff of 200 people.
It will support exterior and interior styling, digital design and studio engineering for GM’s global vehicle programs.
“This is clear evidence of GM’s strong commitment to operations in Korea,” GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha said. “Everything is state of the art. Whatever is the latest, we did it here.”
GM Korea sold 151,040 vehicles in Korea last year and exported more than 1.8 million complete vehicles and vehicle kits to more than 150 markets all over the world.